Sunday, February 03, 2013

Returning to Exalted's Dragon-Blooded (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CCIX

One of the things I'm appreciating during my read through the first edition Dragon-Blooded rulebook is the way that it balances the need to create a fully-realized sub-creation with the fact that it's essentially a list of rules for a game.  A whole world is there before your eyes (government, cuisine, fashion, religion, geography, etc.), yet each and every fact is presented so as to suggest a germ of an idea for a role-playing session or campaign.  I constantly find myself pausing to consider how a tiny note on local folklore, the name of an eminent craftsman, or the relations between branches of the Imperial bureaucracy could be spun into a story.  Sure, there's plenty of flavor text and several short stories to set the tone and provide some obvious ideas, but it's the fact that even the little details are couched in such a way as to get you straight into the game that astonishes me.  As with the Exalted core book, the way that the information is deployed also provides the player with the maximum number of entry points into the world.  Social Justice your thing?  There are abolitionist factions among the slave-holding Dragon-blooded.  Prefer political intrigue and subterfuge, just look at the assassination etiquette common among the Thousand Scales.  Fancy fighting the man?  How about playing a rogue officer whose legion was just disbanded?  If your a fan of old westerns and wandering, hard-bitten heroes, try one of the Imperial magistrates.  Playing a demi-god not your thing?  There's plenty of information on the human citizens of the Blessed Isle from peasants to patricians.  This balance of creativity with playability is what I remember liking so much about role-playing in The Age of Sorrows during grad school.  Playing was fun, but the books were a pleasure to read on their own even if you didn't have a game running.  They got the creative juices flowing in ways that were as likely to lead to a drawing or a short story as to a campaign or a character.  A world was introduced to you along with a framework or rules and then you were invited to join right in helping to create and expand wherever you saw fit.

Once again, those are my thoughts for now.  The reading is still going and any epiphanies will be recorded here at The Platypus of Truth.


ardensia said...

Agreed. One of my favorite things about the Exalted books is all the little hooks they put in everywhere. They drop bits and pieces while never fleshing them out... because that's *your* job.

While White Wolf is getting ready to release their third edition of the Age of Sorrows, I'm looking to pick up a copy of second ed's Graceful Wicked Masques-- the Fair Folk book. It may soon be "obsolete," but the book is gorgeous in both form and function, and should I get rid of my other second ed books, that's the one I'd like to hold onto. Out of all the various second edition game paraphernalia I've pored over, that is the one that struck me as epitomizing the world of Exalted, and also the one that seemed to say the most about how White Wolf approached roleplaying in general. As fitting with a raksha book, they never quite come out and say it outright, but once you figure it out, you can see it written all over the place.

Really, the vast amount of detail and subtlety in Exalted is what makes it probably my favorite system ever.

James said...

I saw the Second Edition Fair Folk at the used book store but didn't look into it. If it's still there next time I'll take a peek. I remember the 1st Edition being pretty spiffy. The rules were definitely for advanced and disciplined players. Of course, that was the nice thing about "Exalted": it was a game that didn't assume that you needed a rule for everything to have fun. Maybe that's not fair to other systems, but I felt as though "Exalted" empowered and respected rather than constrained and belittled its players. So, what would you define as the "White Wolf Approach to Roleplaying"?